The China Clipper

While Pan Am's majestic fleet of flying boats generally came to be known as Clippers, the planes, themselves, were actually comprised of three different models: the Sikorsky S-42, the Martin M-130, and the Boing 314. Luxury was the common theme to all three planes. In the 1930s, Pan Am founder Juan Trippe believed in providing his customers an extravagant traveling experience, one which rivaled the comforts of a grand luxury ocean liner. Passengers enjoyed the finest food, drink and amenities while traversing the seas. But such lavish travel came at a price - a ticket across the Pacific aboard a Pan Am Clipper would cost $10,000 in today's dollars.

Coming up with the name "Clipper" was a logical choice for the nautical-minded Juan Trippe. His family's fortune had been amassed centuries earlier from sailing Clipper ships. Equipped with giant pontoons, these flying boats were able to take off and land on water. Like their maritime namesakes, the Clippers made use of the oceans to form a vast global network of air routes. With concrete runways expensive and rare in the 1930s, Pan Am's Clippers were able to take advantage of the world's free and plentiful oceans as their runways.

The first Pan Am Clipper introduced was the Sikorsky S-42. Launched in August of 1934, the S-42 first began service in Pan Am's six-day Miami to Buenos Aires route. Although the Sikorsky could accommodate up to 32 passengers, the S-42's 1,200 mile range wouldn't stretch the needed distance without help from additional fuel tanks.

To make the longer distances required by Trippe, Pan Am next introduced the second version of the Clipper, the Martin M-130. Launched with much fanfare, the first M-130, named the China Clipper, first flew across the Pacific in late1935. The following year it offered passenger service on the over 8,000 mile, week-long trip to Hong Kong. The three M-130's put into service each carried between five to eight crew members and as many as 46 passengers.

entered service in 1939.
The third and largest of Pan Am's flying boats was the Boeing 314, which Not until 30 years later with the arrival of the 747 would a commercial plane surpass the 314 in size. It could carry up to 74 passengers during day flights while offering sleeping accommodations for up to 36 passengers. Unlike today's commercial planes, the 314 - as well as the other Clippers - were divided into several luxurious cabin compartments including a stateroom, dressing rooms, and men's and women's restrooms. The 314 featured a separate dining room where passengers were served full-course meals. The Boeing 314 entered Pacific service in early 1939, and opened a trans-Atlantic route later that year.

With America's entry into World War II, Pan Am's fleet of Clippers were quickly put into military service. The planes' long-distance range combined with its tremendous storage capacity proved beneficial during the war. After the war ended, worldwide expansion of airports with new and improved concrete runways led to the Clipper fleet's ultimate demise. Although the planes of the Pan Am Clipper fleet numbered only 28 - thirteen Sikorsky's, three Martins and twelve Boeing's - they came to symbolize the height of globe-trotting luxury during the golden age of aviation.

(From PBS)